Most people don’t know this – yet – but replacing a new car’s windshield can cost as much as a new transmission used to cost.
Because it’s not just glass you’re replacing.
Embedded in the glass – part of the “assembly” – is saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety technology. It’s usually part of the rearview mirror, technically – but that’s now part of the windshield assembly in more and more new cars.
It’s no longer the simple – and generic/universal – glue it in place rearview mirror cars used to have.
The rearview mirror is almost an afterthought.
The rest of the assembly – that huge chunk of plastic that’s glued to the glass – contains sensors and cameras, integral to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety systems such as Lane Keep Assist, Automated Emergency Braking and so on. Some keep track of what’s happening outside the car and some (like Subaru’s EyeSight system) also keep track of what’s going on inside the car.
Some do both.
In some cars, the rearview mirror doubles as a closed-circuit camera.
This makes the system much more expensive to manufacture than the old-school sheet of just glass – and effectively impossible for generic/aftermarket companies to make copies of.
They could make the glass, of course. But they can’t make the tech. Not legally, anyhow – and even if that weren’t an issue, the economics would be. The tech has become so car-specific that mass reproduction of a given part (this goes beyond windshields) often doesn’t make economic sense.
In the past one size did fit all – or at least, many – when it came to automotive glass as well as many other parts. It was typical for a given make/model of car to remain pretty much the same for at least five or six years and that meant a given sheet of glass (as well as other parts) fit tens of thousands of copies of a given make/model of car built over that span of years.
This reduced the cost of those parts because the manufacturer – whether original equipment or aftermarket – could recoup manufacturing costs on less per sale because more parts could be sold. Economies of scale.
You could also find a part that fit used – at a junkyard. So long as it physically bolted up, you were good to go. Usually for much less than the cost of a new part, whether OEM or aftermarket.
But today’s car have much shorter shelf lives; the usual interval between a major makeover is down to about three or four years on average and it is now common for major incremental changes to be made year-to-year.
And cars are much more make/model and year-specific now. Trim and combination of options-specific, too.
Your 2018 car may look like the 2016 version – but your version came with a different windshield. One that incorporates saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety tech or other systems that weren’t yet on the menu back in ’16.
The windshield for a 2016 (or from one, at the junkyard) might physically fit. But it won’t work – because the electronics are different.
The replacement windshield for the 2016 costs say $200; $150 for the functionally identical aftermarket/generic replacement. But the same glass for the 2018 costs twice as much – because it’s no longer just the glass . . .and because there is no generic/aftermarket option.
Your insurance, too. Both the premium and the deductible. People are beginning to notice – especially after they file that first claim for a replacement windshield. They are fall-to-their-knees grateful when they find out that’s only going to cost them $100 (for the deductible) to get that $1,000 windshield.
A month later, they get the new bill – the “adjusted” premium (and deductible) which – in defense of the insurance mafia – reflects a legitimate cost.
What’s not legitimate is that we can’t opt out – of either.
We’re not allowed to buy new cars without the embedded-in-the-glass (and everywhere else) saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety tech, which has either been formally mandated by the government or functionally mandated by the car companies, most of which won’t sell you a car with just a windshield and just a rearview mirror anymore.
Just as they won’t generally sell you a car without at least six air bags – even though the government only mandates two.
They’ll say it’s for your saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety, of course. But it doesn’t hurt – them – that it all this saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety ups the price you’re effectively forced to pay for the car and to fix the car.</p>
Which you’re forced to do because a cracked windshield won’t pass saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety inspection and without the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety sticker on the windshield you’re fair game for a Hut! Hut! Hutting! by armed government workers.
And to insure it – which you are legally forced to do.
What was it George Jetson used to say?
Jane! Stop this crazy thing!
. . .
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